Education and Capacity Building
The tragic in the Philippine experience in the diaspora, including that of Hawaii, is that so many of the Americanized Filipinos have not gone past the ‘service industry’ mentality.
If we scratch the surface, this mentality extends the very logic of the plantation economy, with the coming over of the first 15 Ilokanos to Hawaii in 1906.
That initial Ilokano participation would eventually involve other ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, with the Visayans joining the Ilokano farmhands in 1909.
With 1906 as the reference point, we have 105 years of presence, or the equivalent of more than four generations.
It is a long story—and history—this.
And despite our claims to the many ‘firsts’ in the state, such as a first governor of a Philippine descent, an exhibit of our capability indeed, we cannot show much further than that.
The burden of proof remains with us.
In a capitalist economic structure, those who have the money to invest remain the captains of a community’s day-to-day existential narrative, that narrative dictating among others who get to be employed in which job, given certain job requirements.
The playing field is not yet leveled, with social and institutional structures remaining the same as that of the plantation economy days.
The base—or the economic infrastructure—remains in the hands of the same people, or their surrogates, as that of the old days.
Simply put, you do not have the money for capital—or if you wish, big investment—you cannot set the direction on where the Philippine peoples would go for a work to make them live, even when they have those many multicolored dreams to live on.
The service industry—people who work for hotels, resorts, and the similar playgrounds of the rich and financially able—is still dominated by the same people as that of the plantation.
The site of service has changed, true.
We have gone away from the big plantations, even if some have remained rooted there with their soiled hands, gnarled fingers, and burnt skin.
But the service mentality has remained intact among the immigrant peoples of the Philippines.
And this service mentality has been passed on from generation to generation for reasons that are complex, including that infectious and contradictory idea, particularly among Ilokanos—and by extension among immigrants—that one does not have to get an education to get by in Hawaii.
The logic is simple and yet twisted—and reduces the believer to a zealot: ‘You get an education, you get and employment, you earn. You do not get an education, you get an employment, you earn.’
In Ilokano parlance, one of those distorted formulas we hear on the streets, it is called the logic of ‘da same ting.’
Elaborated, it means: with or without education, you earn a living.
Never mind that there are parents who believe otherwise.
The key here is the infectious capacity of that belief—and the reduction of the immigrant people into the new servants of the industry for which Hawaii is known.
Never mind that among the ranks of immigrants working as chambermaids and maintenance people are Philippine college-educated people with an accent, and because of that accent, cannot land in jobs requiring that one has to lose one’s accent.
There is lesson to be learned in this—and to be learned the hard way and with seriousness.
We cannot leave our young infected with this service mentality any longer.
Together with them, we have to explore doors for them to get to college.
Together with them, we have to make them see that going to college, and getting out with a degree, will give them some fighting chance to make their life better, better than what many of us know.
We urge, therefore, our young people who are college-bound, and those who are dreaming of going to college, and their parents, to come and join as at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Experience on February 25.
Observer Editorial, Feb 2012